Internal and external uses compete for hay and grazing land

Cow-calf producers need forages. Corn stalks can supplement forage supplies. Still, pasture and hay are the key forage resources. Growing forages takes land.

On-farm land use decisions involve trade-offs. If you choose to grow hay to earn income from cattle, you give up the opportunity to earn income from growing something else, corn for example, on that land. Economists call earnings you forego to use your resources where you choose, rather than employing them somewhere else, opportunity cost. All resources–land, labor, machinery, capital–can be employed somewhere else. Thus, all resources have opportunity costs wherever you choose to employ those resources.

Competition for land is intense

Most agricultural land in Iowa, 25,881,597 acres or 86.3% of the total land in farms, is used to grow crops. Of this cropland, 23,520,694 acres are harvested cropland, 2,078,005 acres are cropland idle or used for cover crops or soil-improvement, but not harvested and not pastured or grazed, 255,065 acres are other pasture and grazing land that could have been used for crops without additional improvement, 27,213 acres are cropland on which all crops failed or were abandoned, and 620 acres are cropland in summer fallow.

Woodland accounts for 1,224,543 acres or 4.1% of all agricultural land in Iowa. A majority of this is woodland not pastured versus woodland pastured at 921,340 acres and 303,203 acres, respectively. Permanent pasture and rangeland, other than cropland and woodland pastured, accounts for 1,687,658 acres or 5.6% of all agricultural land in Iowa (Figure 1). Land in farmsteads, homes, buildings, livestock facilities, ponds, roads, wasteland, etc. is 1,184,367 acres or 4.0% of Iowa’s agricultural land.

Read the full article by Dr. Lee Schulz in the March Ag Decision Maker newsletter.

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